1962-1967 Chevrolet Chevy II


Canada got a Chevy II, too. It was produced in Oshawa, Ontario, and sold by Chevrolet dealers. See more classic car pictures.
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In 1961, Chevrolet had a big winner in its Corvair Monza, but nothing to compete with Ford's high-flying Falcon. The 1962 solution: the back-to-basics, low-cost Chevrolet Chevy II.

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When the 1960 cars made their debut in the fall of 1959, media attention was focused on Detroit's answer to the imports: Chevrolet's radical, rear-engined Corvair; Ford's simple, sensible Falcon; and Chrysler's highly styled Valiant.

And when 1960 sales were counted -- 435,676 Falcons, 250,007 Corvairs, and 194,292 Valiants -- one thing was clear: Falcon was the car to beat, and Corvair was in trouble.

In its first year, Falcon not only outsold the seemingly unstoppable Rambler, but also surpassed combined sales of the two top imports, the Volkswagen Beetle and Renault Dauphine. Not too bad for a car Chevrolet had derisively termed a "cut-down big car."

While Corvair's intriguing, import-inspired design was widely celebrated in the press, including a Time magazine cover story and a Motor Trend "Car of the Year" award, the Falcon was pleasing car buyers with its greater interior comfort, bigger trunk, and better gas mileage.

The only thing that saved the Corvair in 1960 was the mid-year introduction of the sporty, bucket-seat Monza coupe, a car that appealed to a different sort of buyer altogether. By 1961, the hot-selling Monza was accounting for nearly half of Corvair volume. Chevrolet had stumbled on a new market segment, but a Falcon-sized hole in its product line still remained.

Luckily for Chevy, Corvair sales were "plus" business, so the division ended 1960 as the industry's top seller, after losing the honor to Ford in 1957 and 1959. The key to Chevy's success was the undiminished sales strength of the full-size Impala. The Falcon, on the other hand, was perhaps too successful, stealing sales from the higher-priced big Fords.

This Butternut Yellow 1967 Chevy II Nova SS has a 327 V-8 and four-speed transmission.
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Ironically, even before the Monza boom began, Chevy had decided to bolster its 1961 lineup of Corvairs by adding station wagons, Greenbriar passenger vans, Corvan commercial vans, and Loadside and Rampside pickups. With space utilization compromised by the rear engine location, all were mistakes.

It thus soon became obvious that if Chevy was to catch the high-flying Falcon, which had added its own Econoline light-duty trucks, it wasn't going to be with the Corvair.

Thus, in December 1959 -- shortly after the Falcon entered the marketplace -- the decision was made to put a conventional front-engine compact in Chevrolet showrooms for the 1962 model year. "It was a real rush job," said Claire MacKichan, a Chevy designer at the time. "We wanted to retain some Chevrolet aspects in the design, but it had to conform to those [Falcon] sizes and dimensions. It was such a rush program we had to use the technical knowledge that was available then."

Learn more about what this "rush program" created on the next page.

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Creating the Chevrolet Chevy II

The 1962 Chevy II rode a 110-inch wheelbase, compared to 109.5 for the Ford Falcon, at which Chevy's new compact was aimed.
The 1962 Chevy II rode a 110-inch wheelbase, compared to 109.5 for the Ford Falcon, at which Chevy's new compact was aimed.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

"There was no time for experimentation or doodling around with new ideas from either the engineers or from us in design," recalled Chevy designer Claire MacKichan about creating the Chevrolet Chevy II. "And it had to be a basic-type car."

"I think that was the quickest program we ever did at any time," she continued. "We worked night and day on that car, and it didn't take very long to run it through our shop because we had a deadline."

And that's what made the Chevy II one of the fastest new-car development programs in GM history -- just 18 months after the designers got the green light, the first production Chevy II rolled off the Willow Run, Michigan, assembly line in August 1961, in time for its September 29 introduction.

Unlike the Corvair, the 1962 Chevy II was deliberately never intended to be revolutionary in concept or execution; its mission was to give Chevy buyers a simple, back-to-the-basics compact car. When he announced the Chevy II to the press, Chevrolet General Manager Ed Cole described the car as offering "maximum functionalism with thrift."

There was a lot of debate within the Chevrolet organization over just what to call this new car, and the decision to go with "Chevy II" was a very late one. Among the finalists was Nova. It lost out because it didn't start with a "C," but was selected as the name for the top-of-the-line series. Ultimately, of course, the Nova badge would replace Chevy II -- but that wouldn't happen until the turn of the decade.

In almost every way, the creators of the Chevy II used Falcon as a benchmark. The 1962 model range included sedans and wagons, just like Falcon, as well as a two-door hardtop and a convertible, which Falcon didn't yet have.

Wheelbase was 110 inches, overall length 183 inches, and overall width 70.8 inches, all just fractionally larger than Falcon dimensions. As expected, interior measurements more than equalled Falcon, with seating for up to six. Trunk space, an area where the Corvair really suffered, was an impressive 25.5 cubic feet in the Chevy II.

Styling was crisp and attractive, with a functional three-box shape that contributed to space efficiency. The pleasing lines generally followed the pattern of the full-size Chevrolet, and in fact predicted the overall theme of the 1963 Impala.

Continue to the next page for more details on the 1962 Chevrolet Chevy II.

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1962 Chevrolet Chevy II

At $2,003, the least costly 1962 Chevy II was the series 100 two-door sedan.
At $2,003, the least costly 1962 Chevy II was the series 100 two-door sedan.
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Three trim levels were featured on the 1962 Chevrolet Chevy II. The low-priced 100 series was available as a two- or four-door sedan or a two-seat station wagon.

At $2,003, the four-cylinder, two-door sedan was priced $10 higher than Chevrolet's lowest-priced car, the Corvair 500 coupe, and $18 above the cheapest Falcon. Standard features on all models included heater and defroster, electric windshield wipers, foam-padded front seat, cigar lighter, and Magic-Mirror acrylic lacquer exterior paint.

Originally, there was to be a 200 series, but this was scrubbed at the last moment. What became the mid-range Chevy II 300 series included the two sedans, and -- unusual for this class -- a three-seat wagon with a rear-facing third seat.

Interiors in the 1962 Chevy II 100 series were basic yet attractive. This car doesn't even have a cigarette lighter!
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The top-of-the-line Nova 400 came as a very good looking Sport Coupe two-door hardtop, convertible, two- and four-door sedan, and two-seat wagon. Exclusive-to-Nova features included uplevel interior and exterior trim, including full wheel discs, carpeting, and foam-cushioned rear seats. All-vinyl interiors were found in the wagon and convertible, and bucket seats were optional in the Sport Coupe and convertible.

Engineering was straightforward, but contemporary. An all-new structure, shared with no other GM car, featured integral body/frame construction, but with a separate front-end sub-frame.

Bolt-on, instead of welded-on, front fenders reduced repair costs, especially when compared with fully unitized cars like Corvair and Valiant. Front coil springs were as expected, but the real news was the novel five-foot-long "Mono-Plate" rear leaf springs -- tapered, single-leaf semi-elliptic units, made of high-strength rolled steel and mounted in rubber bushings.

They reduced unsprung weight a bit, cut manufacturing costs, and were said to be less susceptible to rust damage. Two-ply tubeless tires and 13-inch wheels were standard, mounting 6.00 × 13 or 6.50 × 13 tires depending on model.

A new family of inline engines was developed to power the Chevy II. The standard engine for the 100/300 series was a 153-cubic-inch inline four, Chevrolet's first "four-banger" since 1928.

Weighing in at just 2,410 pounds, the 1962 Chevy II came standard with a 90-horse ohv four displacing 153 cubic inches. That compared with the Ford Falcon's standard six with just 144 cid and 85 bhp.
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Engineering features included a cast-iron block with a weight-saving thin-wall casting (like the Falcon), single-barrel carburetor, hydraulic valve lifters, and an 8.5:1 compression ratio. Horsepower, 90 at 4000 rpm, compared favorably with Falcon's 144-cubic-inch, 85-horsepower six.

A new 194-cubic-inch six, rated at 120 horsepower, was standard for Nova 400s, optional on the 100 and 300 (a 230-cid, 140-bhp version would make its debut in the full-size 1963 Chevrolet). Falcon's optional 170-cid six developed only 101 horses. Transmission choices were the usual three-speed, column-shift manual, with Chevy's two-speed Power-glide automatic optional.

How was the first Chevy II received? Find out on the next page.

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Reaction to the 1962 Chevrolet Chevy II

The 1962 Chevy II came in three series and five body styles. The sportiest-looking of the lot was the $2,475 Nova 400 convertible -- 23,741 were produced that year.
The 1962 Chevy II came in three series and five body styles. The sportiest-looking of the lot was the $2,475 Nova 400 convertible -- 23,741 were produced that year.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The reaction to the 1962 Chevrolet Chevy II was mainly positive. Veteran Mechanic Illustrated tester Tom McCahill was favorably impressed with a Chevy II 400 Series Nova convertible he drove at a press preview for Chevy's 1962 models, held at GM's Milford, Michigan, test track.

"Flat out, which with Powerglide was 91 mph, this little car never wavered and even over some rough strips it was one of the safest feeling 91's I have ever driven." The styling reminded "Uncle" Tom of a "small Mercedes-Benz," and he concluded that "with a little hopping up, a stick shift and its low price, it should sell like cold beer on a hot Fourth of July."

Car Life was even more enthusiastic, honoring the Chevy II with its Award for Engineering Excellence. "We think the Chevy II, in either 4- or 6-cylinder form, represents an important development in the American automotive field," reported the magazine. "We think it represents a return to sensibility in terms of basic transportation; it is a car of reasonable size, adequate performance and simple elegance."

Consumer Reports described the six-cylinder Chevy II as an "ultra-sensible, conventional car with outstanding interior space," but also reported "higher than average" interior noise levels. There were also complaints about the four-cylinder version's lack of refinement. "CR hesitates to recommend the Four for normal use. The Four is an excellent hackabout for specialized local use -- if you can stand the vibration."

This 1962 Chevy II is loaded: Powerglide, power steering and brakes, air, bumper guards, pushbutton radio, two-speed wipers, and more.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

McCahill put it this w­ay: "The four wasn't the smoothest four I have ever driven, but it had nice response and will probably still be running long after Castro shaves his beard off." Okay ...

Motor Trend called the new Chevy II "a most straightforward car -- simple, honest and conventional." Editor Jerry Titus was fascinated with the new single-leaf rear suspension: "How it actually works seems almost contradictory. There is a great deal of body roll, but the car does not feel unstable. The ride is soft and pleasing, but not seasick-soft with the constant pitching and rolling that some cars have."

The interior of the top-line 1962 Nova 400 convertible was upmarket, featuring two-tone vinyl upholstery.
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­Interior room, steering, and brakes were commended. Performance was rated as "moderate" for a six-cylinder Nova convertible with Powerglide: 0-60 came up "a shade under 16 seconds," and the top speed was reported to be 98 mph, but Titus felt that "the car seems at its best below 75, where it did not feel as though it was working hard."

The four, meanwhile, took 20 seconds to make it from 0 to 60 mph. In comparison, a 1960 90-bhp Falcon with stick shift took 21 seconds 0 to 60, also according to Motor Trend, while the 101-bhp six introduced for 1961 required 14.3 seconds with stick and 15.2 with the two-speed Fordomatic.

In the marketplace, the 1962 Chevrolet Chevy II did exactly what it was supposed to do: model year production totaled 326,607 units. Of these, 59,741 were Nova Sport Coupe hardtops, 23,741 were convertibles -- the latter a surprisingly high figure for an economy car.

More than 86 percent were equipped with the six-cylinder engine. Best of all, Chevy II represented more "plus" business for Chevrolet. Corvair's 1962 model-year sales reached a high of 292,531, and with 1,424,008 full-size models built, Chevrolet increased its lead over second-place Ford to nearly 600,000 units.

It was a sales achievement of historic proportions, with Chevrolet Division copping 30 percent of the U.S. market. Fortune magazine reported that "total [1962 Chevrolet] sales came to 2,078,029 units. This is more than Chevrolet sold in the record car year of 1955, and is a world record for sales of a single make of car."

Meanwhile, in the Ford camp, it seemed like 1960 all over again. Falcon sales slipped a bit to 396,129 units, but the new-for-1962 intermediate-sized Fairlane cut into Galaxie volume, so Ford's overall market share was down sharply.

Continue to the next page for details on the 1963 Chevy II.

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1963 Chevrolet Chevy II

In 1963, the Chevy II could be ordered with a $161 SS (Super Sport) option. Included were silver inserts in the side trim and on the decklid, added chrome trim at the top of the bodysides and spinner hubcaps.
In 1963, the Chevy II could be ordered with a $161 SS (Super Sport) option. Included were silver inserts in the side trim and on the decklid, added chrome trim at the top of the bodysides and spinner hubcaps.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Following a highly satisfactory introductory year, the 1963 Chevrolet Chevy II saw plenty of enhancements.

Biggest news was the Nova Super Sport option, available on the Chevy II Sport Coupe and convertible. Following the pattern established with the 1962 Impala SS, the Nova SS included a special all-vinyl interior with front bucket seats, full instrumentation, 14-inch wheels with "SS" full wheel covers, and distinctive exterior trim, including a bright-finish rear cove panel.

The SS was a very appealing appearance package, especially on the convertible, giving Chevy another strong entry in the sporty-compact market segment it had created with the Corvair Monza.

The 1963 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova was a bit chromier, with wider full-length body side moldings, and all models received a new, bolder grille, amber front parking lamps, revised decklid ornamentation, and new interior fabrics. One model was deleted, the Nova two-door sedan.

The 1963 Chevy II SS also featured SS badges on the rear fenders, decklid, and glovebox door.
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Functional improvements included rust-resistant "flush-and-dry" rocker panels, self-adjusting brakes, and a new "Delcotron" alternator. Powertrain choices-including the Super-Thrift 90-bhp four and the Hi-Thrift 120-bhp six-were carried over.

The Chevrolet Chevy II had an excellent year in 1963: 375,626 units delivered for the model year, including 42,432 Super Sports. This was enough to disrupt the Falcon's flight plan as production slipped to 328,339 units.

Rear view of the 1963 Chevy II
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However, word was getting around about the four-cylinder engine's shortcomings; only 3,800 were sold. Significantly, too, the competition wasn't standing still.

The Falcon was now available in hardtop and convertible models, and the 1963 1/2 Falcon Sprint featured a 260-cubic-inch V-8, enough to blow by any Nova, Super Sport or not (the V-8 was optional on all Falcons). Meanwhile, Chrysler completely restyled its Valiant/Dart compacts, and Consumer Reports gave these Mopar twins its top rating.

Noted Consumer Reports: "New last year, the Chevy II has not yet developed into a smooth-riding, quiet, or in any sense luxurious car. It is an easy driving, agile one. By far its most important asset is a body with substantially the room of intermediate cars, but with a very compact silhouette and especially good entrance height."

All through the spring of 1963, there was speculation that the Chevy II was going to be discontinued to make room for the upcoming mid-size Chevelle. That was, in fact, the original plan, but the high sales of the 1963 model gave Chevy II a reprieve.

Learn about the 1964 Chevrolet Chevy II on the next page.

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1964 Chevrolet Chevy II

A Chevrolet Chevy II design study, dated April 3, 1964.
A Chevrolet Chevy II design study, dated April 3, 1964.
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As it turned out, 1964 brought both good news and bad news for the 1964 Chevrolet Chevy II.

First, the good news: Chevy's 195-bhp, 283-cubic-inch V-8 ($107.70) and four-speed manual transmission were new factory options for all 1964 Chevy IIs, as were Positraction and sintered metallic brake linings.

For two years, enthusiasts had been clamoring for a V-8 "II," so finally "Nova SS" would really mean something. Except that there was no Nova SS! That was the bad news.

In a classic example of one hand not knowing what the other was doing, Chevrolet canceled all 1964 Nova hardtops and ragtops because it was felt they intruded too much into the new Chevelle's price territory. The 1964 Chevy II V-8 was a great performer, but it was available only in Series 100 or Nova sedans and wagons.

The 300 series -- and along with it Chevy II's only three-seat wagon -- was discontinued. One small consolation: the Nova two-door sedan was back after a one-year absence, a "sort-of" replacement for the hardtop. Other changes for 1964 included self-adjusting brakes and a very minor trim reshuffling -- it takes an expert to spot the changes from 1963. In addition, front-seat belts became standard on cars built after January 1,1964.

Bowing to pressure from enthusiasts, in early 1964 Chevrolet reinstated the Nova Sport Coupe and the Nova Super Sport Coupe. The convertible, sadly, got no reprieve. Popular Mechanics commented on this encouraging turn of events in a 1964 "Detroit Listening Post" column: "Speaking of comebacks, Chevy II pulled a strange one recently when Chevrolet Division announced the revival of the Nova hardtop sports coupe, which had been dropped from the lineup for 1964."

"It seems that the public didn't agree with Chevrolet marketing experts who felt that Corvair and Chevelle would overlap Chevy II," the article continued. "In fact, word was around the industry that Chevrolet execs were intent on phasing out the Chevy II altogether. But, the brass had done their work too well, if not wisely. Buyer demand, relayed through dealers, brought the Chevy II hardtop back. It seems the car is good and the price is right."

Throughout the rest of the 1964 model year, demand for Super Sport Novas was brisk -- especially for the four-barrel 220-horsepower 283 V-8 that had also been announced at mid-year. Motor Trend tested the milder 195-bhp, two-barrel SS with Powerglide, recording 0 to 60 in 11.3 seconds, 18.0 seconds and 75 mph in the quarter-mile, and 100 mph all out.

Fuel economy ranged from 12.3 mpg in heavy traffic to 19.6 on the highway. Motor Trend concluded that "By adding a V-8 and bigger brakes, plus detail changes, Chevrolet has made a nice compact even more desirable and a much better performer."

Not surprisingly, however, the beautifully styled, all-new Chevelle Malibu drew buyers away from the Chevy II. Model year production was down to 191,691, including 10,576 Nova Super Sport Coupes -- way behind the Falcon's 300,762 assemblies. Engine installations broke down as follows: 25,083 V-8s, 165,487 sixes, and just 1121 fours.

How would the Chevy II rebound for 1965? Find out on the next page.

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1965 Chevrolet Chevy II

The 1965 Chevy II sported a new grille and taillights and reshuffled trim. The Nova SS listed at $2,433, and about 9,100 were sold. This one has the 230-cubic-inch, 140-horsepower six.
The 1965 Chevy II sported a new grille and taillights and reshuffled trim. The Nova SS listed at $2,433, and about 9,100 were sold. This one has the 230-cubic-inch, 140-horsepower six.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

In 1965, car buyers continued their drift upmarket into mid- and full-size cars, which caused the 1965 Chevrolet Chevy II to struggle.

The compacts that had been newsmakers in the early 1960s -- Tempest, F-85, Special, Falcon, Comet, Dart, and Valiant -- grew bigger and heavier and more powerful as the decade wore on. In Chevrolet showrooms, the Chevelle Malibu and Impala set sales records, while the virtually unchanged 1965 Chevy IIs were gathering dust.

And that's really too bad, because the 1965 Nova SS was a neat little car. In styling, this was the ultimate refinement of the 1962-1965 bodyshell. Highlighted by a new grille, taillights, and trim, the look was clean and custom. The interior was the most luxurious yet.

In the other series -- 100 and Nova -- sedan rooflines were modified for a more "formal" look, and the Nova two-door sedan was again dropped, this time for good.

Although the 1965 Chevy II featured new front and rear styling, sedans also had a new roofline. The series 100 two-door sold for $2,077 with the six. This base model doesn't have a radio -- but being a Texas car, it has air.
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But, for Chevy II enthusiasts, 1965 is best remembered as the year the Chevy II became a muscle car. The V-8 choices were expanded to include 250- and 300-bhp versions of Chevy's hot 327 V-8, suddenly putting Nova SS performance practically on a par with the GTO, 4-4-2, and 271-bhp Mustang 289s-at least in straight-line acceleration.

Even so, the Chevelle Malibu SS continued to eat away at the Nova SS market: Out of 122,800 Chevy IIs built for 1965 (compared to 213,601 Falcons), only 9,100 were Super Sports. For 1965, Chevy II had the dubious distinction of being the only car in GM's lineup to suffer a sales decline.

Consumer Reports noted that sedan and wagon buyers would do better to choose a Dart, Valiant, or the larger Chevelle. "Though the best dimensioned 'package' of the group, the Chevy II seems to have been neglected by its manufacturer. The Chevy II is a capable car but one offering none of the refinements present in some other compacts."

Once again, Chevy II obits were being written by the automotive press, and Chevrolet General Manager Semon E. Knudson tried to clear the air in a press conference at the 1965 Chicago Auto Show. "There were some rumors around last fall that we were going to discontinue it but we have no intention whatsoever of dropping the Chevy II," he said. And once again, reports of the Chevy II's demise were greatly exaggerated -- there would be a 1966 Chevy II.

Continue to the next page to learn about the 1966 Chevrolet Chevy II.

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1966 and 1967 Chevrolet Chevy II

The 1967 Nova SS was, as before, Chevy II's sportiest model. This Butternut Yellow hardtop has the 327 V-8 and four-speed transmission.
The 1967 Nova SS was, as before, Chevy II's sportiest model. This Butternut Yellow hardtop has the 327 V-8 and four-speed transmission.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Although still based on the 1962 bodyshell, the reskinned 1966 Chevrolet Chevy II was supposedly inspired by the sleek Super Nova show car that had made its debut at the 1965 New York Auto Show.

To many eyes, the appearance of the 1966 Chevy II sedans and wagons remained, at best, unimaginative, but the Nova Super Sport Coupe picked up some of the successful "look" of the bigger Impala and Malibu coupes. SS interiors were upgraded, too, but for the third year in a row the most interesting news was under the hood.

The expanded range of available V-8s included the 195- and 220-bhp 283s, a 275-bhp 327 and, the ultimate small-block -- a new 350-bhp 327 V-8 straight out of the Corvette Sting Ray. So equipped, the 1966 Nova SS became one of the top weapons in Chevy's performance arsenal due to its relatively low weight. Reportedly, about 2,200 350-horse 327s were produced, all with the four-speed stick. Most were SS Novas, but about 50 of the light two-door sedans got the hot combo, too.

While the SS added excitement, Chevy II for 1966 remained far behind its 1962-1963 sales levels, although up smartly from 1965. Production totaled 163,300 units, including 21,000 Super Sports, but this still wasn't enough to beat out the Falcon's 182,669 sales.

In its last year on the 1962 bodyshell, the 1967 Chevrolet Chevy II was virtually unchanged -- and unappreciated by 1967's compact-car buyers. Model-year production slumped to 106,500, the lowest ever. Even so, this was enough to beat Falcon, which plummeted to just 64,335 units.

New 1967 Chevrolet Chevy II features included a reworked grille, duo-tone SS all-vinyl interior, and a rarely seen optional vinyl top. Safety features in every 1967 Chevy II embraced GM's new energy-absorbing steering column, front and rear seat belts, padded instrument panel, and padded sun visors.

The 1967 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova SS was not only handsome, but rather lavish inside.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

All this notwithstanding, times had changed, but the Chevy II hadn't. Even the four-cylinder motor remained in the lineup, and at $2,258, the Series 100 two-door was one of the industry's lowest priced cars -- but also a car few wanted to buy.

In 1968, a very different kind of Chevy II Nova appeared, but for a legion of devotees, the real Chevy II story began in 1962 and ended in 1967. For those six years -- in the face of Falcons, Darts, Comets, Tempests, and even a saboteur or two from within -- the "back-to-basics" Chevrolet Chevy II was a lot like the Eveready Rabbit.

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